I never looked at fear the same after the first time I walked across fire. And it was damn amazing.
Some people have wild and crazy stories that involve naked dancing on tables, joy rides, sky diving, or really clever pranks. I don’t have any of those stories. But, I have walked across fire 5 times.
Actually, even though they call it a fire walk, you walk across hot coals, not flames. I want to tell you about the first time.
I was invited to come to a private fire walk event. There were only about 30 of us there, which made for a friggin’ amazing experience compared to what you see at a Tony Robbins event.
I was practicing as a chiropractor at the time, and I hung out with a bunch of other chiropractors. You’re right, chiropractors are a weird bunch. But I love them. They do things like host a private fire walk.
Some of my friends were hosting a fire walk at their home. How cool! I didn’t hesitate to sign up.
I love doing things that might terrify others.
It's not because I have some super abundance of courage, but because some very common every day things scare the crap out of me. Walking over hot coals, no problem. Riding in the back seat of a car, nope. Won’t do it.
The big day arrived. All I knew was I was going to be there for several hours, and by the end of the night I may or may not walk over hot coals. I was super curious and up for the challenge.
It turns out that attending a fire walk is a lot more detailed than I realized.
You don’t just show up, kick off your shoes, and hop over some red hot coals.
We started outside where the logs had already been set up. It was a circular chimney shape structure of logs about 3 feet across and about 4 feet high. Quite a ceremony was made of lighting the fire. Then we all took turns throwing sticks into its center.
The sticks represented the things we wanted to release. Fears, bad habits, painful memories, limiting beliefs, addictions…
It turned into an impressive fire that leaped at least 10 feet into the air.
Before you can walk, that huge fire has to burn down to only coals.
That was going to take some time, so we went inside for a workshop. I don’t remember all the details, but we talked about how our beliefs create our life experiences. We talked about breaking free of limitations. We talked about challenging ourselves to stretch beyond what we thought was possible.
After about 2 hours we went outside again. The towering fire was now a mound of red coals. It was time to rake out the coals into the rectangle that we would walk across.
We all stood in a circle as the coals were spread out.
I couldn’t believe the heat coming off that glowing pile of coals. The group had to keep backing up because the heat was so intense.
I’m talking the sort of heat that makes you turn your face away and close your eyes. That scared me. For some reason I had begun to believe that the fire wouldn’t feel hot. Of course, it was super hot. We couldn’t not back up because it was so hot.
So, we kept backing up, and finally the rectangle was raked out.
It was time to walk.
We were only given one clear directive that night.
You don’t force yourself to walk. You don’t use human willpower. You don’t grit your teeth and bear it. You wait to feel drawn to walk. You wait to feel driven from deep within. When that happens, you feel calm. You feel certain. Not afraid and not ecstatic.
Only after you felt that pull from within to do it, would you step forward to take your place at the head of the coals to walk.
Several people went before I did. Some went fast and some went slow. Some marched or danced across. They didn’t seem to have any problems doing it , but I was still nervous. What made me the most anxious was the thought that I might chicken out.
I started to have an inner dialog.
My thought said “I’m scared, I don’t know if I can do this.”
A voice from deep inside me said, “Christine, do you want to do it?”
Without hesitation, I said, “Yes!”
and the voice said, “then you will.”
Shortly after that inner conversation, I took my place at the top of the coals. I took a deep breath. I breathed in the awe and magnitude of life…
And I stepped on those red coals.
And you know what my first thought was? “Oh wow, the coals actually feel hot.”
As funny as it seems, I didn’t expect them to feel hot. I really thought that my mind over matter would sense no heat at all. Let me be clear, though. The coals didn’t feel hot the way it feels when you accidentally touch a hot pan from your oven.
There was no pain. There was no desire to pull away or to run. It felt more like an intense sense of energy under my feet.
I walked across those coals at the same pace you would use to walk to your mailbox.
Wow, wow, wow. The feeling you have when you think, “Holy crap I just walked over hot coals and it was freaking amazing!”
I walked over the coals 2 more times that night. When everyone was done, we all went back inside to talk about our experiences. A few people had tiny blisters on their feet (I’m talking 1–2 mm in diameter). Those are called “hot spots”.
I didn’t have a single mark on me feet. No redness. No hot spots. My feet had no pain, but they tingled like crazy. Again, energy is the best word I can use to describe it.
It was one of the most thrilling things I had ever done. Was there any downside? Yes. It took me at least 3 hours to fall asleep that night because I was so high from the excitement of it all. I felt like I could solve all the problems of the world that night.
What did I learn?
I learned we’re all capable of so much more than we give ourselves (and others) credit for.
I learned nothing needs to be forced. Forcing it is when you get your feet burned. Listen to that voice of wisdom inside you.
Forcing it is when you get your feet burned. Listen to that voice of wisdom inside you. - Christine Bradstreet
I realized there are a lot of people with painful baggage that they desperately want to throw into the fire and then trample upon it. Let’s be kind and understanding to one another.
I learned that the voice of fear lives in my head, but a bigger, more grounded voice, lives deep in my heart.
I reminded myself that I’m strong. That I have courage. That I have faith.
Most of all I learned:
It’s ok to have fear, but fear doesn’t have to run the show. It’s part of being human.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with fear my whole life. I’ve taken big risks at times, and I’ve let fear stop me at other times.
Fear talked to me while I was standing in the circle around the coals. But then a bigger voice talked to me and told me if I wanted to do it I could.
It wasn’t a battle. I didn’t slay fear. Fear is part of being human, and it’s always going to be there. But fear took a back seat that night.
About 2 years later I went to the fire walk event again and it was just as awe inspiring.
It’s hard to put into words what the experience meant for me. It was many years ago, and just telling the story after all these years reminds me of its powerful value.
I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity to participate in a fire walk. I hope I do, but like I said before, it’s not something you force. It will find me if I’m meant to do it again. Maybe one day, one will find you too.
Hey, if you ever get a call from your local chiropractor inviting you to a private fire walking event, go for it.